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Research In Motion, the Canadian manufacturer of the iconic BlackBerry wireless e-mail device locked in a patent infringement dispute with US-based NTP, claimed on Wednesday it had been vindicated by recent rulings by the US Patents and Trademark Office.

Speaking as the Waterloo, Ontario-based company announced strong third quarter results, Jim Balsillie, chairman and co-chief executive, said: “We believe RIM has been vindicated by the US PTO’s rulings in recent weeks, particularly its latest ruling.”

Last week RIM received a boost after the PTO took the unusual step of notifying both companies that it expected it would reject the five patents held by NTP in its final rulings and described NTP’s arguments as “non-persuasive”. The office has issued preliminary rejections of all five wireless e-mail patents.

Meanwhile Judge James Spencer, the US district court judge overseeing the infringement case, has set a timetable for hearings on issuing an injunction against RIM that could coincide with the timing of the patent office’s final rulings, now expected as soon as mid-February.

Even if the US court rules against RIM and re-imposes an injunction, Mr Balsillie repeated yesterday that RIM had prepared a software “workaround” that would enable it to continue to sell BlackBerry in the US. He hoped the software fix would not be needed but added that some carriers had been briefed on the workaround and promised customers more details shortly.

RIM said on Wednesday it added 645,000 BlackBerry customers in the third quarter, boosting the total number of BlackBerry users worldwide to 4.3m.

The subscriber gains, coupled with a 33 per cent increase in third quarter profits, should help ease investor concerns about customer defections in the face of competition from rivals and uncertainty over the patent dispute.

Net income increased to $120.1m, or 61 cents a share, from $90.4m, or 46 cents, a year earlier on sales that rose by 53 per cent to $561m. Looking ahead, RIM said it was maintaining its fourth quarter revenue guidance in the range of $590m to $620m but now expects subscriber additions to be lower than previously forecast and in the range of 700,000 - 750,000. RIM expects to report earnings per share of between 76 cents and 81 cents.

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